Broadcasted on 5 May 2018
Roelie Post: The Life of a Whistle-Blower
Madeleine van Toorenburg (Chair):
I give the floor to Mrs. Roelie Post, European civil servant and whistle-blower.
Thank you. I am Roelie Post, I thank you for the invitation. I am civil servant of the European Commission since 1983. I have gotten involved with the subject of intercountry adoption in 1999, now seventeen/eighteen years ago, when Romania wanted to become a member of the European Union. And the European Union put as condition that adoptions had to stop.
Hélène van Beek:
That was last year in the Dutch Parliament. But now Roelie Post sits here, in this little house. She prefers that we don’t mention the name of the village.
Over the last months, I visited her a few times and got to know her better.
She is here in hiding. The quiet village gives her a feeling of safety. If something happens, it will be noticed.
Hélène: But do you like being here, Roelie?
Here Roelie tells us her story. And that story begins in 1999. Roelie then becomes Task Manager at the European Commission in the field of children’s rights in Romania.
It was the file Romanian children, Romanian orphans as they were often called, and in 1999 that became my job. In the framework of the enlargement of the European Union with the Eastern European countries, so I became responsible for the monitoring of the respect of children’s rights in Romania, meaning children in children’s homes. There were all kind of scandals about that. Bad care, everyone knew about that problem. And, in 2000, we were confronted with a strongly increasing intercountry adoption. In two, three years’ time it went from 500 to 2.500. The Romanian news was full with all kind of scandals about that.
And what were those scandals about?
The enormous amount of money involved. And sometimes dark organisations that were involved
These scandals also reached the Dutch media. Newspaper Trouw wrote in 2004 about a very lucrative trade in children in Romania.
To improve the process of intercountry adoption and in the hope to prevent irregularities, in 1993 the Hague Adoption Convention came into being. But according to Post, this worsened the situation.
Romania was the first country that implemented it. So adoptions were now well regulated. Now lawyers and others could no longer do adoptions, it had to be done by officially accredited adoption agencies. And thus within a few months there were 108 adoption agencies. Everyone set up an adoption agency.
In Romania, white children were available for adoption. Those were very much wanted. In particular by “wish” parents from France, Italy, Israel and the US. Those countries were the biggest takers. Adoptive parents paid up to 40.000 dollar for a Romanian child. According to a price list from an American adoption agency.
After the fall of the Romanian dictator Ceausescu, in 1989, 30.000 children were sent abroad.
Romania was then the fourth biggest sending country of the world. Third or fourth. It came right after China and Russia. But those are enormous big countries. With a lot of inhabitants. Romania came right after those, while it is a relatively small country. And in Romania was almost the only country where one could adopt Caucasian, white children.
Except the Hague Adoption Convention, there is another Convention. That is the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. This UN Convention regulates that if parents cannot care for their children, intercountry adoption is only allowed if in-country there is no other way to care for the child. All EU Member States ratified this child rights convention.
Roelie Post was as civil servant of the European Commission working for the Romania Team, which had to prepare the accession of Romania.
Roelie was in particular charged with the improvement of the situation in the hundreds of children homes and orphanages in Romania. To look for other ways of care. For the European Commission, not the Hague Adoption Convention – but the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child the legal basis.
We also had made 50 million euro available for Romania to reform their child protection. In such a manner that it became like other European Member States, to close the huge old-style children homes. Creating foster care, family-type homes. There was huge resistance to the closure of so-called baby-homes. Those were the nurseries for intercountry adoption, literally – so the resistance was enormous to their closure by those who had made this their business.
The interests in adoptions are big.
It are the adoption agencies who have interests, because that is their reason of being. There is a lot of money involved. And although these organisations are non-profit, those people earn a good salary. So, they want to continue. Then there are prospective adoptive parents who have a strong desire to have a child.
All those interests make that there are a lot of lobbyists who strongly work pro adoption.
Inside the European Commission there are all kind of other files where there are lobbied involved, but I dare to say that this is about the strongest lobby that exists.
Because it is a very emotional subject, for many people. Because there is a lot of money involved.
Someone who also personally got confronted with this heavy pressure of the adoption lobby, is Gunter Verheugen. This German politician was as Commissioner for the European Commission responsible for the accession of new members to the EU. So also Romania.